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5 Ways to Show Your iPad on a Projector Screen

Teachers really want to the ability to display their iPad or their students' iPads on a projector screen. Projecting on a large screen is great for demonstrations, simulations, explanations, and showing examples. There are several ways this can be done in the classroom. 

If you don't mind keeping your iPad in one spot, then a VGA adapter (for 30-pin Dock connector or for the new Lightning connector) or a document camera (or USB camera) should work for you. 

If you want to wirelessly transmit your device's screen and audio so that you or your students can walk around the room, then it gets more complicated. You'll tap into Apple's AirPlay feature that is built into all iPad 2s and newer, including iPad mini. AirPlay works over Wi-Fi and requires all devices using it to be on the same network.

Apple TV is a small black box that can connect to a projector. iPad can mirror wirelessly to Apple TV using AirPlay. Apple TV only outputs HDMI. Your projector might not have HDMI input. If that's the case, you'll need an HDMI to VGA adapter like the Kanex ATVPRO.

If you already have a computer connected to your projector, you should look into using software to turn that Mac or Windows PC into an AirPlay receiver. You can download and try for free AirServer or Reflector (formerly named Reflection). The software runs on your computer and allows devices to mirror iPad to the computer screen. Since the computer is connected to a projector, then the iPad shows on the projector. I've written lots more about both AirServer and Reflector.

In my visits to various schools, I'd say that Apple TV, AirServer. and Reflector work about 50% of the time. That's because AirPlay requires the device and the computer or Apple TV to be on the same network. Often schools have different networks for mobile devices and for PCs so AirPlay won't work. Also, AirPlay requires specific ports to be open on the network and frequently they are not. It's a good thing there are free trials of AirSever and Reflector so you can test your school's setup before purchasing.

I've whipped up a chart that compares these methods of displaying iPad's screen on a projector. You'll want to click the image to download the easier-to-read PDF version.

Reader Comments (13)

Great post Tony! I was wondering if you need to mention wifi use in a row for each? Also I've found by creating my own network on my MacBook Pro you can then join on the idevice and avoid the school network. This bypasses port problems.
I see this is for projecting but what about the use of LCD/plasma screens? Have you seen much use of them in classrooms? I am interested as our projectors are failing badly.
Thanks for this post, it's great to see all the methods in one table. Very useful!

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenny Ashby

Hey Jenny

I have tried that creating my own network thing (ad hoc?) but I have never been able to make it work. Could you point me to a place that shows me how to set it up??

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllanah King

I would be interested in learning to create a network on my Macbook. I have used Apple TV with LCD TVs at work and home. The work TVs do not have HDMI, so I used a vga cord from the tv to the Kanex ATVPro adapter then the Apple TV. We also use a 3.5mm sound cable (like the cable used in cars for MP3) to plug in from the tv to the Kanex ATVPro. That will carry our sound from the iPad to the speakers on the tv. At home, I only use am HDMI cable. If you are using Apple TV on different video sources and the screen is super dark, then check the Apple TV settings and make sure the the AV resolution settings are set to auto. Our projectors and computers use XGA (or 1024 x 768). Our home and work TVs use 1080p.

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSherry H


I have seen some LCD/Plasma screens used in schools. Not many thought. I think that's because of the expense and size. Projectors are cheaper and can make a much larger display.

When you do get new projectors, make sure they have HDMI inputs. I think most new ones do.

December 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTony Vincent

Allanah and Sherry,

Here's how to set up your own network using your Mac:

I've used this setup in schools and at conferences. I also set up my parents' iMac to make a Wi-Fi network. They don't have a wireless router, so sharing their Internet over Wi-Fi means that their devices and mine can get online (as long as the iMac is powered on).

December 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTony Vincent

Thanks for this post Tony - I had drafted a similar one, but will now just point teachers to yours instead! Great chart.

One other thing to note is that the audio latency is pretty terrible when using any of the wireless methods. Because I work with music-related apps (as do the music teachers I train), they are not a viable option for 80% of the things I want to project. I spend most of my time tethered to the VGA cable, and a little time roaming free (!) using a wireless option.

December 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

One addition to this list which is the most painfree is itools it's fully back compatible with all apple devices, also it doesn't require to install the software you can just run it for the session required. Just open itools connect the device via cable to the computer click on the device > desktop >live desktop. It can be a little slow but at least it works.

December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSam Parker


I had not heard of iTools before. I see it's an easy and simple file management system, with lots of functions of iTunes.

I tried iTools' Live Desktop view, which I thought might let me mirror my screen to my Mac, but I cannot get it to work. I receive and error message each time. Does Live Desktop actually mirror your screen to the computer? And does it work for you?

Thanks for sharing!

December 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterTony Vincent

HI Tony,

Yes it works on multiple windows machines we have, that is both Windows 7 and xp. I haven't tested the mac version yet. There is a little delay so its not perfect but I have used it for a few sessions and it's worked quite well. The recording feature seemed to be a little buggy but was fine when using another screen recorder.


December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSam Parker

Hi all,
Enjoyed the post. For me, Apple TV and Air Server are great in the classroom. Especially allowing students to share content from their iPads to the screen as well. No more dongles and adapters for students to show presentations. Even new macs can share displays over AirPlay.

My podcast has episodes on both Air Server, and setting up your own wifi network fom your Mac. Enjoy.

Tim McKean

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Mckean

I have not had any issues with the Apple TV and airplay at my school. Here is how our system is set up and working great.
- The Apple TV's are Ethernet wired and connected with an HDMI cable to a surround sound receiver in each classroom.
- The receiver is wired through the ceiling with an HDMI cable to the projector.
- If the projector does not have an HDMI output, then a VGA to HDMI converter is used
- The network i.p. settings on the Apple TV are then customized to the DNS of the network

After that it's just a matter of turning on mirroring capabilities on the Apple TV settings.

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia Fraginals

This post is perfect for me. I just got my first iPad. I'm in love by the way. I need to do a presentation using this iPad in a few weeks. I am using keynote with video and audio. I do presentations around the nation all the time so I never really know what if any type of wifi they may have. My android cell phone is a 3 g hot spot. Any suggestions on what to do to stay wireless and have the best chance of staying free. If not my backup can always be to wire the iPad direct. But I would love to stay wireless. I will buy either of the options above. Just not sure about hotspot usage and best chance for success.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob furman


I use my phone as a hotspot lots for my presentations. I prefer no wires so I can walk around. I never know what the venue might have for WiFi and if AirPlay is blocked. AirServer or Reflection will work through a phone hotspot. I have both and prefer AirServer. It seems to be more reliable and looks crisper than Reflection.

December 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterTony Vincent

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